Put the coffee down and buy my shit.
For me, I say bring it on, advertising is a damn sight less annoying when it's properly targeted. I love the idea of the data I need finding me, and this is a step on the road to the semantic web. This is contextual advertising at it's finest. All marketing and advertising should be strategic, and I've worked with clients who've come to me with very specific ideas on who they want to target, for branding purposes and for click-through generation. When B2B companies come to us and want to target a specific company social is not an immediately obvious choice, but actually both LinkedIn and Facebook make it surprisingly easy (if the budget is up to it).
Why a specific company? If you make brass widgets there's only so many companies who need to be supplied with brass widgets. If your product is part of a larger process or product, or you have a finite market you need to reach, a list of the companies who need your product is a great place to start (the rest's down to good copy, being cheaper, or having some whizzy USP the potential customer can't live without). Even if your a small business like a sandwich shop, imagine being able to target all the local businesses around you and put your lunch time special under their hungry noses.
LinkedIn is a damn site more than just a job site, and claims a hefty 187,000,000 (1.87 x 10^2) users, many of them decision makers and people with purchase power, in 200+ countries. When you're creating your ad, at stage 2, just scroll down to 'Company' and start to typing the company name. It's all pretty obvious. In this case I picked the BBC, which has 11,905 LinkedIn members.
Facebook is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mindbogglingly big it is... When you're creating an ad (under 'See Advanced Options', 'Get More Likes', or 'Promoted Page Posts') go to 'Choose Your Audience' then scroll down and open the 'See Advanced Targeting Options' link, then go down again to the bit that says 'Workplaces'. Start typing a business name and (if it's in Facebook's database) it'll give you option to select it in the dropdown. As you can see there's 14,520 people, who live in the United Kingdom, that work at BBC. Obviously you can keep adding other companies if needed.
With both channels there's even more needle-sharp targeting you can add to this like groups they belong to, their job title (in LinkedIn), marital status (Facebook), their interests, whatever.
Imagine then using these ads to actually give the targeted company employees something industry specific like a well researched white paper or branded online tool? Get creative. Give them something that might make their job easier, and just watch those click-through rates go up. Perhaps you could try targeting companies with these ads for a couple of weeks before getting your sales reps to give them a call? An ad's an ad, it's the creative (and strategic) thinking around it that'll get you somewhere.
Get creative. Know your audience.
Remember, the ability to target a company like this is great - indeed so are any of the many other targeting options - but you need to think why your going to be doing this and make sure it's not working in isolation from the rest of your campaign. If you don't stand out or you're not offering them a reason to care then they won't give a damn. Make sure your text will grab their attention and that it relates directly to the target audience. Have a relevant and compelling call-to-action. Optimise those small images to fill the space and make sure they're easy to read. Create different ad versions, combo's of image, title, description, and test what's best for click-through. All the usual methods and standards apply, if not more so - as you're directly under the nose of your target market.
If you find a cool use for this, let me know :)